Being a Philippine passport holder, I have recently applied for my 5th and probably last Schengen visa a few weeks ago with the French embassy. It is a bittersweet moment for me as I have almost made it a hobby to collect Schengen visas after being stamped by 5 different countries. Friends and acquaintances have often asked me how difficult this process is. Actually, it is quite easy! However there are a few pointers to keep in mind before setting up your appointment.
What is a Schengen Visa?
It is a short stay visa (up to 90 days per visit) that is valid within the 26 member states of the Schengen agreement. The latter was created in the town of Schengen in Luxembourg in 1985 that led to the creation of Europe’s Schengen Area.
Where to apply?
Before applying, you need to check where the nearest consulate is located in your area. When I lived in Florida, the closest consulate was in Miami which was a 2 hour drive from where I used to live. So plan ahead before scheduling your appointment and make sure to make it on time. There are several scenarios to consider as to choosing the right consulate for your travel:
Scenario #1: This one is easy! Apply for the consulate of the Schengen country that you are visiting. For example: If you are going to Germany, then apply at the German consulate and check with the corresponding consulate’s website for their requirements.
Scenario #2: If you intend to visit more than one Schengen country, you must apply for the visa at the consulate of the country WHERE YOU’RE STAYING THE LONGEST. For example: If you are visiting Norway for 3 days and Spain for 5 days, you need to apply at the Consulate of Spain and check with the corresponding consulate’s website for their requirements.
Scenario #3: If you are visiting more than one Schengen country and you are staying the same number of days in each country, apply for the visa at the consulate of the country of your FIRST DESTINATION. For example: If you are visiting France for 5 days and Denmark for 5 days and your country of first destination is Denmark, you need to apply at the Consulate of Denmark and check with the corresponding consulate’s website for their requirements.
Certain consulates require that you apply for a visa at the country of your first destination (port of entry). Again, check with the consulate’s requirements for application for more detailed information.
What is required?
An applicant must apply NO EARLIER THAN 3 MONTHS but NO LATER THAN 2 WEEKS before the planned departure date. Application requirements may vary (please check with the embassy you are applying with). Generally, they would require:
- A filled out application form that is found in the embassy’s website.
- Itinerary with flight details and hotel reservations. Some consulates require that you have already booked these reservations while some don’t.
- An employment letter with employment status, dates of employment, rate of pay, among others, with the official company letterhead.
- Most recent pay stubs. Normally they require atleast 2 most recent and consecutive.
- Most recent bank statements. They usually require the latest 2 months.
- Copies of passports, driver’s license, residence permit (depending on your residency status).
- Travel insurance. (Please check with your embassy’s website regarding minimum coverage requirements). I normally use insuremytrip.com to find the coverage that best fit my needs and budget.
- Passport photo ID.
- MAKE AN APPOINTMENT. This is done online through the consulate’s website.
- Pay the visa processing fee stated on the consulate’s website.
How long is the visa valid for?
This is dependent on the consulate’s decision. They can give you only a few days based on the number of days on your itinerary, or they may give you a few months or even a year. If you are like me who travels to Europe multiple times a year, it is best to make that known to the consulate and request if a multiple entry visa is possible (it is an option that you can tick off on the application form). They may grant it or not but it is definitely worth a try! This will also save you all the hassle and fees of reapplying all over.
These information is based on my experience as a permanent resident living in the US.
Any questions? Comment below or sign up to my blog! I’ll be glad to help! Good luck!